Review: Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent Will Trent is ordered not to investigate the disappearance of a female college student, which only tends to pique his curiosity more in the case, in Criminal, the fourth mystery in this series by Karin Slaughter.
Will learns that his immediate supervisor, Amanda Wagner, has been withholding information from him: his father, a convicted killer, was released from prison two months ago, and has taken up residence in a $4000 a night suite at the Four Seasons in Atlanta. Will has only seen pictures of his father, his trial taking place when Will was only a child. But as disturbed as he is knowing his father is out of prison, he's more alarmed by the apparent similarities between the missing student and the women his father killed. And after decades of being locked up, how could he possibly have the financial resources to afford the best room in the best hotel in the city?
Criminal is really two books linked by only the most convenient of plot devices … and only one of these books is really worth reading. Indeed, it is exceptional. But a compelling, strongly developed crime thriller storyline is overwhelmed by a needless and often seemingly endless backstory set almost forty years ago. There are two fundamental flaws here. The first problem is that authors sometimes get so wrapped up in relating a historical social injustice or the modern plight of some deserving group under the pretense of writing a "crime novel" that the primary reason a reader is drawn to the book — typically a murder mystery storyline — becomes secondary to the narrative that includes the research they did on the subject at hand. And for the second problem, some editor needs to step up and definitively state that dual timelines are way overdone in today's thrillers. It's not at all clear readers ever liked them, as they typically introduce unnecessary complexity without providing the benefit of helping to move the story along, and as a result rarely make for a satisfying experience. Even worse is when one of timelines is non-linear (as is the case here). This whole literary concept seems to exist more for the convenience of the author than anyone else and should be used sparingly at most.
A very, very mixed review for Criminal. What could have been one of the author's best in the series is heavily, almost fatally, bloated and weighed down — yes, those terms are contradictory, but they both apply here, illustrating how frustrating this book was to read — by superfluous and not terribly interesting secondary characters, and an extended backstory that is mostly just a research paper on how hard it was to be a female police detective in the 1970s, incorporated within a literary style that most certainly isn't suited for the story.
Acknowledgment: Authors on the Web provided an ARC of Criminal for this review.
Review Copyright © 2012 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Delacorte Press (Hardcover), July 2010
ISBN-13: 9780385341974; ISBN-10: 0385341970
Location(s) referenced in Criminal: Atlanta, Georgia
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Criminal by Karin Slaughter — A Will Trent Mystery
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: July 2012
List Price: $27.00